Posted by Julianne Connors on Tuesday, March 12, 2013
This year for spring break I went on Alternative Spring Break to Jackson, Mississippi. It was an incredible week during which I became ASBest friends with 11 new people and learned about the problems facing Jackson.
Our site focused on kids, so in the mornings we painted the administration building for the Methodist Childrens Home in Jackson. While I was a little disappointed to not be spending time with the kids or helping them directly, it was still a job that needed to be done. While my dad has painted our entire house, I had never really painted before. I learned all about how to properly prime and paint the walls with a paint roller from their facilities maintenance man named Nate. Nate was a short, Southern man from the “woods”, who first took his son hunting when he was three. Needless to say, we had tons of fun perfecting our painting skills and learning about the Southern way of life from him.
In the afternoons, we worked with an afterschool program called Operation Shoestring. For the first hour or so we helped organize their library. Many of the books were quite old, so we had fun reminiscing about our favorite childhood stories. I also found a book on etiquette from the 70’s which was entertaining. After that, we went to Rowan Middle School to help with one of Operation Shoestring’s programs. Each day we picked a life lesson, for example bullying, to talk to the kids about. I loved talking to the kids and listening to the issues they were dealing with. Many of them talked about teachers who called them dumb and said they would never amount to anything, which was heartbreaking to hear. For two of the days we went to the gym to play basketball, which was so much fun. The kids were amazing at basketball-there were tiny 6th graders making 3 point shots like it was no big deal. One of the 8th graders even said he was being recruited to go to a private high school for basketball.
The last day we were in Jackson, we went with the kids to the Mississippi Museum of Art, where they were having an outdoor community art project. Operation Shoestring had been selected as one of the groups to present a piece on Jackson. Some of it had already been painted, and the kids continued to paint it outside. We got to talk to some of the artists in charge of the project, including one guy who did an afterschool program involving philosophy. He told us a story of one time when he asked a kid if his shoes were the same when he bought them as when the got scoffed up with holes. The entire class started laughing and the kid started crying at the idea of having shoes with holes in them. He wished the kids would discuss happiness more, and it was interesting to hear how materialism may be involved with poverty. Overall, we all loved getting to know the kids and could easily see how much they enjoyed going to Operation Shoestring.
On our day off, we drove around Jackson and ate at Brent’s Drugs, which was where some of The Help was filmed. We also drove to Vicksburg to meander around some old homes and government buildings. There was a military park about the Siege of Vicksburg, which was one of the major turning points in the war. It was certainly interesting to see how many of the informational signs supported the Confederacy, which ultimately lost the siege.
I had such an amazing time in Jackson learning about the struggles facing their community. I also loved my ASB group and we had so much fun together. I had a wonderful spring break in the south that I wouldn’t trade for anything!
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